The Girl In The Blue Dress

“Do not lose hope. Please believe there are a thousand beautiful things waiting for you. Sunshine comes to all who feel rain.” (r.m.drake)

Last week I was reflecting on my 50 miler race and wrote about moving forward during hard times and not getting ‘stuck in the mud’. Today, almost 2 weeks since that adventure, I am finally ready to share another story with you. I don’t know how to put it into words, as it’s something that is hard to explain, and good stories take time to tell, but I will give a short, simple version for now and perhaps expand on it again in the future. It will be worth the wait!

The conditions over the race weekend played a big role in the overall outcome and the 100 milers particularly had a tough time out there. The rain, cold and low temperatures saw one runner having to be carried off the course and others withdrawing before hypothermia set in. Our race directors were vigilant about checking up on us to ensure we were okay and despite declining a pair of gloves and an offer to use a plastic bag to protect my head from the pouring rain, I never refused the hot cup of milo on offer at the aid stations! It did the trick every time! I was freezing but managed to regulate my core temperature and was fortunate to finish with flushed cheeks and a good bill of health. This little body is stronger than it looks and once again did me proud.

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I believe magic happens when you do not give up and I had many magical moments during my race. I prayed (a lot!) and was in a fair amount of pain at times, especially when running downhill. I actually looked forward to the climbs because it was more comfortable to run up than down. After a few hours of running, I turned a corner and saw a long, steep dirt road in front of me. I was brought to tears and cried out, ‘God, give me strength!’ I started walking and talking to myself (‘You’ve got this Debs!’ and other things that don’t sound as nice!) and then suddenly out of nowhere a young girl appeared next to me.

We had run through a rural settlement a few miles back and at first I thought she must have followed me from there and hidden until now. She didn’t say anything, simply smiled and walked beside me. I remember thinking, she must be freezing in her blue summer dress and bare feet but she was in fact warm and dry. A few days later, this is what puzzled me the most. It was pouring with rain, yet her face was dry and her body too! She started jogging slowly and I followed her lead, happy to have company. After a few steps she grabbed my right hand and squeezed it tight. Her palm was soft and warm and I felt guilty for my icy, shrivelled up fingers that I gave her in return.

I wondered if I would get in trouble if I reached the aid station with my unofficial ‘pacer’ as the 50 milers were not allowed any help in this regard and it was almost as if she sensed my concern, because as we reached the top, she let go of my hand and stopped running. I said thank you, as I wiped the rain out my eyes with the back of my hand and in that instant she was gone. I turned around and looked back down the hill but she had vanished.

Low body temperature impairs the brain and some may argue I did experience a symptom of hypothermia – confusion – when I tell them this story. Whether she was a human girl or a spirit, either way, she was an angel to me and gave me peace and hope as we climbed one of the toughest hills in the race. I know God was watching over me the entire time and I certainly didn’t do it in my own strength.

“She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”

Life is full of miracles and we need to take the time to notice them. We know pain is real, none of us need to be reminded of this, but hope is real too. It wasn’t an easy race after that and my angel didn’t appear again, even when I was scared and by myself in the forest, struggling to carry on. But I know I was never alone.

I read a quote this week that said, “Every storm runs out of rain.” Remember those words when you face your next challenge. Stay patient and trust your journey.

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Don’t Get Stuck In The Mud

The rain is falling outside, triggering memories of my cold, wet run last weekend. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the icy drops landing on my head, before they slowly dripped down the back of my neck.  The swishing noise from the fabric of my oversized jacket is the only sound I hear, as my arms pump back and forth, propelling me forward on the muddy road. It’s easy to let my mind go back there….

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Part of the allure of endurance running for me is to see how deep I can dig. It is a brilliant way to build mental toughness and help you learn how to manage discomfort. When I look back on my life and some of the things I have endured and overcome, perhaps I was born to do this. I have had a lot of practice when it comes to dealing with physical and emotional pain and giving up has never been an option.

Tonight I am fortunate to be indoors, warm and dry and I wonder how did I do that? How did I manage to run 50 miles in those conditions? My mind is about as clear as the muddy puddles on those farm roads and it will take a few weeks to process all I went through during those 11 hours (10 hours 40 minutes to be exact!) I look forward to sharing many stories and lessons learned in future posts, when I can see clearly and the rain is gone!

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Winston Churchill said, “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” We can’t allow difficulties to intimidate us and instead need to face them head on and in doing so, we develop the determination needed to be everything we were created to be.

This post is a bit of a muddy mess but I hope I have conveyed some kind of message and encouraged you to face your own challenges with relentless determination. Don’t get stuck in the mud. If you are going through something, keep going. Hypothermia was a real concern at the race and one way to keep my body temperature regulated was to simply keep moving forward to keep warm. Step by step. One mile at a time.

We will go through difficult circumstances but that makes us people who know how to overcome adversity. We grow when we persevere and don’t give up. It comes at a cost and you will have to be willing to push through obstacles that stand in your way and perhaps you are tired of doing that, but let me encourage you to press in one more time. You can do it!